We’re finally on the pitch after two days of acclimatising from 40 hours of travel.
The Christchurch United team had a smooth flight to Spain and everything went as planned. The team, accompanied by with a nice group of parent supporters, travelled through Sydney, Dubai, and Madrid to reach Valencia where they arrived in the hotel on Friday night.
After a good Spanish Paella, the players went off to bed and woke up to clear blue skies on the Saturday. The weekend was planned in a way that the players could get used to the time difference and that the body and mind could adjust. The hotel is situated only 500m walking distance from the Valencia Academy training grounds. On the Saturday morning after a good breakfast the team went to see some youth Academy teams play their games. Valencia U15 played Levante and it was interesting to watch how the Spanish players played and experienced their game. From the very professional warm up with at least 6 staff members assisting the team, to the way they walked onto the pitch with referee and linesmen. It was all very focussed, to make sure the players could get a good result.
Zach Bennet said: “It was great to see how players were able to perform the 1:4:4:2 system. I recognise what they do in the build-up and it is similar to how we play, but the speed and the timing are so different.” Thomas Chao found the physical capabilities so obvious: “It seems that players are selected by their physical size, they are all so big and strong.” The games and first moments on the Academy grounds were impressive. The players went back to the hotel and took the afternoon off to rest, play some cards, and relax in the swimming pool.
The Sunday was a second recovery day. In taxi’s, the entire group went to the city centre of Valencia. The romantic centre was discovered and at 1pm the group gathered in the dry river that zigzags through the city. In this dry river, football was being played on several turf pitches. The Spanish voices screaming on the pitch and beautiful south European bushes and trees made us realise we are at a special place. With the temperatures rising up to 28 degrees, it was time for the sea. Rondo’s on the beach and a nice dive in the calm sea were a good way to wrap up the day. At night, it was time to see the real stars perform. In a shuttle, the players were transported to Estadio Mestella where Valencia were playing Levante in the local derby. For some, this was the first ever experience in a football stadium. Marli Pradhan was impressed by the 40,000 fans cheering and screaming for their local hero’s. Matthew Duncan: “It was such a great experience! The stadium exploded after the goals, what a feeling.” Valencia beat Levante 3-1. On the way back to the hotel it was obvious that the jetlag was not yet gone. More than a few open mouths were visible.